Christopher Cerrone: The Air Suspended

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About

Composer Christopher Cerrone releases an EP featuring two recent works, his piano concerto The Air Suspended written for Shai Wosner and recorded with the Argus Quartet and bassist Pat Swoboda, and Why Was I Born Between Mirrors? performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Cerrone's topical, post-minimalist voice speaks powerfully through these two works that both take inspiration from the work of poet Ben Lerner, among other sources.

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 22:03

The Air Suspended

Shai Wosner, piano, Argus Quartet, Pat Swoboda, bass
01I. From Ground to Cloud
I. From Ground to Cloud
Shai Wosner, piano, Argus Quartet, Pat Swoboda, bass4:25
02II. Dissolving Margins
II. Dissolving Margins
Shai Wosner, piano, Argus Quartet, Pat Swoboda, bass4:36
03III. Stutter, Like Rain
III. Stutter, Like Rain
Shai Wosner, piano, Argus Quartet, Pat Swoboda, bass5:44
04Why Was I Born Between Mirrors?
Why Was I Born Between Mirrors?
Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble7:18

Christopher Cerrone’s latest EP, The Air Suspended is a follow-up to Cerrone’s GRAMMY-nominated 2021 album, The Arching Path, The Air Suspended features as its centerpiece a concerto for piano and strings featuring pianist Shai Wosner and the Argus Quartet, who recorded every string part in the concerto during the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

According to the program notes by Tim Munro:

With performances of his new piano concerto canceled, Christopher Cerrone wanted to fight his sense of loss. He wondered if he could try something new, to build an album of far-flung shards: instruments recorded in studios and living rooms across the country.

“I have an interest in albums that are not simply an imitation of live-music-making,” says Cerrone. Having produced albums since the eighth grade, he says, “I’ve known the recording studio far longer than I’ve known classical music.”

Album-ized, these acoustic works take on a different hue. Gone are the spacious ambience of airy halls. Gone are the hazy, indirect sounds of distant mics. Instead, we are up close: rosin sticking on strings, air blowing into our ears. Tightly wound machines buzz and churn and clank.

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The Air Suspended evokes the raw, elemental power of the weather. Originally commissioned and premiered by Shai Wosner in 2019, the work was specially tailored to Wosner’s unique virtuosic skills, delicacy of tone color, and collaborative spirit, while nodding to the ambient and terrifying emotional effects of climate change:

“I was searching for something that would give imagist power to that idea,” Cerrone says, enveloping listeners in the thrill, power, and violence of an approaching storm.

Why Was I Born Between Mirrors? completes the EP. A work for sextet, it features such unusual instrumentation as tuned flower pots and prepared piano; the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (who also co-commissioned the work) recorded it in locations as far-flung as Seattle, Paris, Copenhagen, and Brooklyn.

Munro writes further:

Cerrone’s album is a love-letter to poet and novelist Ben Lerner. Cerrone read Lerner’s novel Leaving the Atocha Station while living in Rome on a fellowship. […] Poet and composer both make art of this faultiness. In Cerrone’s music we might hear it in the friction of hazy, buzzing, “imperfect” out-of-tune notes.

As Lerner writes, “I did not walk here all the way from prose / To make corrections in red pencil / I came here tonight to open you up / To interference heard as music.”

The Air Suspended also marks Cerrone’s third collaboration with producer Mike Tierney. Their 2019 The Pieces that Fall to Earth was nominated for a 2020 GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance; while their 2021 The Arching Path was nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY for Best Classical Compendium.

– Chris Cerrone

All music composed by Christopher Cerrone

Produced by Mike Tierney and Christopher Cerrone

The Air Suspended was recorded by Mike Tierney at Shiny Things Studios in Brooklyn, NY, Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon, NY, and Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, RI, throughout 2020 and 2021

Edited and mixed by Mike Tierney

Commissioned for Shai Wosner, by the Phoenix Symphony, with support from the Adele and John Gray Foundation, Albany Symphony, and the 92nd Street Y with support from Richard Replin & Elissa Stein

Why Was I Born Between Mirrors? was recorded remotely by Kevin Noe, Christopher Cerrone, and Oscar Micaelsson in Brooklyn, Copenhagen, Charleston, Greensboro, Paris, and Seattle, through- out 2020

Edited by Mike Tierney, Christopher Cerrone, and Kevin Noe

Mixed by Kevin Noe

Mastered by Mike Tierney

Commissioned by Latitude 49, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and Sentieri Selvaggi

Christopher Cerrone

Christopher Cerrone (b. 1984) is internationally acclaimed for compositions characterized by a subtle handling of timbre and resonance, a deep literary fluency, and a flair for multimedia collaborations.

Recent commissions include In a Grove, a new opera co-produced by LA Opera and Pittsburgh Opera, a violin concerto for Jennifer Koh and the Detroit Symphony, an antiphonal brass concerto for the Cincinnati Symphony, a piano concerto for Shai Wosner and the Phoenix and Albany Symphonies, a percussion concerto for Third Coast Percussion, and three works for the LA Philharmonic. His first opera, Invisible Cities, based on Italo Calvino’s novel, was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and he is the recipient of multiple GRAMMY nominations. He is the winner of the 2015–2016 Rome Prize and is a resident at Laurenz Haus in Basel, Switzerland from 2022–23.

Christopher Cerrone holds degrees from Yale and the Manhattan School of Music and is published by Schott NY. He is on the composition faculty at Mannes School of Music and lives in Brooklyn with his wife.

Shai Wosner

Pianist Shai Wosner has attracted international recognition for his exceptional artistry, musical integrity, and creative insight. His performances of a broad range of repertoire—from Beethoven and Schubert to Ligeti and the music of today—reflect a degree of virtuosity and intellectual curiosity that has made him a favorite among audiences and critics, who note his “keen musical mind and deep musical soul” (NPR’s All Things Considered). In addition to his work as a solo recitalist and chamber musician, he has performed with major orchestras across the U.S., including the Chicago and San Francisco Symphonies, Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has performed abroad with the Staatskapelle Berlin, Vienna Philharmonic, and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, among many other ensembles. His recordings range from Schubert sonatas—continuing his career-long, critically acclaimed engagement with the composer’s music—to chamber works by Bartók and Kurtág, to concerti by Haydn and Ligeti. He is a recipient of Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He is Resident Artist of Peoples’ Symphony Concerts in New York and is on the piano faculty at the Juilliard School and Bard College Conservatory of Music. Born in Israel, Wosner enjoyed a broad musical education from a very early age, studying piano with Opher Brayer and Emanuel Krasovsky, as well as composition, theory, and improvisation with André Hajdu. He later studied with Emanuel Ax at the Juilliard School.

Argus Quartet

The Argus Quartet is dedicated to encouraging the joys of human connection, community, and discovery by bringing a wide-ranging repertoire to life through bold and meaningful programming and a vibrant commitment to collaboration and education. The Quartet has emerged as one of today’s most versatile ensembles, winning First Prize at the M-Prize Competition and the Concert Artists Guild Competition and appearing in recent seasons at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and the Ravinia Festival. Recent and upcoming highlights include performances on Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series and at the Noguchi Museum, residencies at Temple University and the University of Denver, and newly commissioned works by Jessica Meyer, Leilehua Lanzilotti, and Joseph Bohigian. Argus has worked with many of today’s leading musical voices, including Andrew Norman, Christopher Theofanidis, and Augusta Read Thomas, and has received commissioning grants from the Koussevitsky Foundation, Chamber Music America, and the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. Currently based in New York, the Quartet previously served as Fellowship Quartet at the Yale School of Music and Graduate Resident Quartet at the Juilliard School.

Pat Swoboda

Patrick Swoboda is a Brooklyn-based bass player active across musical worlds. Dedicated to performing the works of living composers, Pat has worked closely with Michael Gordon, Du Yun, David Lang, Sarah Hennies, and Scott Wollschleger. Recent highlights include performing and recording David Lang’s powerful and introspective opera The Loser with Bang on a Can and LA Opera, premiering and touring Michael Gordon’s Mixed Tulips with Bearthoven, and appearing on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk concert series with LADAMA. Also an accomplished orchestral musician, Pat has performed with the American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Riverside Symphony, and New York Pops Orchestra.

Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble was founded by Pittsburgh composer, David Stock, in 1976, making it tied for the oldest continually running new music ensemble in the country. PNME has commissioned and premiered over 300 works by composers including John Cage, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Michael Daugherty, David Lang, Derek Bermel, Pierre Jalbert, and Kevin Puts.

Using music as the vehicle for larger ideas, PNME commissions, performs, and presents new work, constantly reinventing the concert experience in a relentless pursuit to bring meaningful experiences to the audience. Current Artistic Director, Kevin Noe, assumed that post in 2000 and implemented a new artistic vision that completely transformed the company: incorporating the drama, lighting, sound, and stage design of theatre into an evening - dubbed the PNME "Theatre of Music.”

Currently, PNME is undergoing another major transformation, incorporating binaural technology (audience in headphones and experiencing the music in 360°) to increase the intimacy between audience members and performers, and to make each audience member the center of the experience.

PNME is a fixed ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, soprano, and bass-baritone) of artists from around the world, chosen through a rigorous audition process. PNME produces an average of 10 concerts each year in Pittsburgh featuring existing contemporary works and new commissions; produces educational programs that provide opportunities to increase knowledge and appreciation of contemporary music; produces recordings of contemporary music; and tours concerts of contemporary music both nationally and abroad.

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